Something rotten in the state of the Met
The open war raging at the very top of the Metropolitan police is revealing deep schisms that go far beyond a personality clash between the top officers involved or the accusations flying thick and fast.
Tarique Ghaffur, the 53-year-old assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard and its most senior Asian officer, went public yesterday to the shock of his colleagues. At a press conference he accused Commissioner Sir Ian Blair of “degrading and humiliating treatment”, barring him from key meetings and criticism that amounted to racial discrimination and victimisation. Ghaffur’s employment tribunal claim also accuses Blair and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryant of harassment and “creating a degrading and humiliating environment”.
Resentment has been brewing since 2000, when a corruption unit headed by Blair investigated an Asian officer, Commander Ali Dizaei, who was mentored by Ghaffur. Dizaei, who is president of the National Black Police Association, went on to win a £60,000 award after a £4m anti-corruption investigation, during which his meetings with Ghaffur were placed under surveillance.There is no doubt that racism remains rampant in the Met. The Metropolitan Police branch of the Black Police Association says that morale amongst ethnic minority officers is even lower than a decade ago when the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence murder case concluded that the Met was “institutionally racist”.
Blair has been in deep water with his senior colleagues a number of times already. The police shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes in 2005 caused a crisis when Brian Paddick, the then deputy assistant commissioner, suggested that Scotland Yard staff knew within six hours of the shooting at Stockwell that an innocent man had been killed. Blair fell out with his own deputy, Paul Stephenson, when the latter disagreed about the pay-out of a £25,000 bonus payment made to senior officers in the aftermath of the Menezes shooting.
So far, so clear. Or is it? There are also wider political issues. Sir Ian Blair’s star was in the ascendancy in the Tony Blair years as New Labour’s favourite copper. He was in fact demonised by the right as the “PC PC”, as the Force adopted New Labour speak. Its management documents say that “performance in respect of race and diversity [should] be measured through a corporate measurement framework” and the need to “facilitate the change process through the establishment of the development and organisation improvement team (DOIT)”. Indeed right wing commentators have even compared the Met under Blair’s watch to “those extremist Left-wing councils of the 1980s”!
Blair can no longer count on support from the London Mayor. Unlike Ken Livingstone, who chose to support Blair, not least defending the Met over the Menezes killing, Boris Johnson is set to push for his removal in October. And last, but certainly not least, there is rumbling disaffection in the Met itself amongst PC plods who distrust Blair’s intellectual aspirations and liberal credentials, and who have other issues too - in January this year, police officers marched through London in a pay protest. In fact, Paddick and Ghaffur’s defections must seem to Sir Ian like a double “et tu Brute” – as their promotions were part of his own “modernising agenda”. Both of them were promoted to their high office under Blair, only to turn against him later. Indeed one source has said: “The Commissioner is incandescent that a guy he agreed with on so much, in particular race, is now playing the race card on him.”
The sense of personal betrayal, racial discrimination, careerism, big financial stakes, firearms killings spiralling out of control on the streets – it is a tale of crisis and failure, despite the Met’s budget of £2.6bn. In reality, the problems are much bigger than any policing, even of the “best” kind can resolve. No wonder those in charge are turning against each other. The crisis at Scotland Yard is symptomatic of the decay and unravelling of Britain’s state institutions, which are not “fit for purpose”. The causes of this crisis at the heart of the state – and solutions to it – are analysed in A World to Win’s forthcoming book, Unmasking the State and will be at the centre of debate at A World to Win’s festival on October 18.
A World to Win secretary
29 August 2008